Autonomous sailing vessel prototype in production for sea trials

Harbor Wing Technologies is developing an autonomous open-ocean sailing vessel prototype dubbed the HWT-X-3.

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Harbor Wing Technologies (Seattle, Wash.) is developing an autonomous open-ocean sailing vessel prototype dubbed the HWT-X-3. The trimaran is outfitted with the company’s 65-ft/19.8m tall rigid WingSail (pat. pend.), a controllable vertical composite wing that replaces the traditional stayed mast and sails. On exhibit in microscale format at the recent Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s (AUVSI) Unmanned Systems North America 2010 show in Denver, Colo. (see our show highlights on p. 21), the HWT-X-3 concept is now under construction as a full-scale prototype, designed for operations in sea state 5 (with survival in higher sea states). The project is being funded by NAVSEA, the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command’s Surface Warfare Center (Carderock Div.).

The composite-hulled HWT-X-3, the latest iteration of the company’s autonomous unmanned surface vehicle (AUSV), will be a 50-ft/15.4m long vehicle, with a 40-ft/12.3m beam, capable of carrying a payload of 1,500 lb/682 kg. The rigid carbon composite wing sail was designed by a team led by aeronautical engineer David Hubbard, who also designed the wing sail for the BMW ORACLE racing team’s winning entry in the recent America’s Cup yachting competition (see HPC May 2010, p. 21, or click link at right). The company selected a rigid wing over conventional sails because it would generate more motive power and ease control in varying wind conditions. Under the control of a shore-based computer, the vessel could potentially remain at sea for three months or more for long-term surveillance or reconnaissance missions.

The HWT-X-3 is currently under construction and is scheduled for full-scale sea trials in mid-2011, says Harbor Wing’s project manager Mark Ott. Composites Universal Group (CUG, Scappoose, Ore.) was selected in September to build the main wing sail for Harbor Wing. Fabrication of the wing sail structure will involve a combination of VARTM and out-of-autoclave carbon fiber prepreg, reports CUG’s sales/marketing manager Jim Chastain. “The project takes full advantage of our large-envelope 5-axis CNC tool and pattern capabilities,” he notes, adding that all parts that require high-temperature cure will be processed in a digitally controlled oven supplied by Jensen Industries Inc. (Hamburg, Mich.). The fabricator for the vessel’s hulls has yet to be determined, adds Ott.

Steve Ruege, president of CUG, says, “CUG has committed to an aggressive schedule to build the tools and main wing structure to help Harbor Wing Technologies begin ‘in-the-water’ tests.”